You Might Have heard of a little game called Counter-Strike, a game so unsurpassed in its popularity that no commercial multiplayer release has dared openly mimic its counter-terrorist/terrorist dynamic. A copycat game would be commercial suicide, wouldn't it? Well, German developers Acony reckon their Unreal Engine 3 game of multiplayer shooty-bang-bangs will be a definite challenger in the world of violent bomb defusal - and they've brought a bulging bag of fresh gameplay ideas along with them to prove it Roll VT!
Nu Clear Bounds
This is what you see come the game's end - fiery, nuclear death and a cascading dust cloud not unlike that seen in the closing moments of F.E.A.R.. Given a strict time limit, it was Delta team's job to roam the 12 maps of Parahelium's US city to find the bomb -but clearly they bOrked it.
At the start, the Deltas get a choice of the 12 maps to search through, this one being an industrial affair packed with odd factory machines and building sites. If they win the battle and the bomb isn't there, they can move to an adjacent map and try there instead, while the timer slowly ticks down...
Here we are in the adjacent map chosen by the Deltas - a subway system that's not unlike Washington DC's. If representatives of the terrorist team have guessed that this is where the Deltas would be heading next they can spawn slightly earlier to set up ambushes.
This chap has selected a load-out that simply features dual handguns, so with the reduced weight he'll be a lot speedier than his heavy-gunning companions. In the load-out screen, you'll also get to fiddle with ammo, range and rate of fire.
Bouncing Through The Walls
When it comes to snipage and accurate gunnage, there'll be a brand of ammo that'll embed itself metres and metres through solid walls - meaning that sometimes taking cover just won't be enough. This also means that one bullet will be able to take out several enemies at once.
Destruction is a frequent sight in Parahelium, and in their attempts to slow or divert the progression of the Delta team, terrorists will be able to blast apart bridges and platforms that might be needed - thankfully for the good guys though, there'll be four different paths through each map.
The Incidental Things
Acony are clearly enjoying what they can get out of Unreal Engine 3 - as you can see here, smoke effects are fairly lovely, while elsewhere explosions and driving rain are equally impressive. If only the name Parahelium didn't sound a bit shit..
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Question. Why Has nobody ever managed to develop a game that can come even close to dislodging Counter-Strike from its lofty perch atop the strategic online shooter pile? Answer? Because no-one has ever tried taking the CS template, retaining all that is good and adding in an original slant, that's why. Well, at least not until now they haven't.
Created by fledgling developers Acony -a team formed from an array of industry veterans - Parabelluni seeks to infuse the Counter-Strike template with more strategic and tactical depth by linking a series of missions together to create one massive, objective-driven online battlefield. Intrigued, I jetted off to Germany to take a look at the game, though nearly didn't make it after the PR guy got ns lost in the Black Forest. We eventually stumbled across Acony's offices by sheet luck, but only after several futile attempts to communicate with a bemused German woman in a petrol station, largely by shouting at her in English and pointing at a crude hand-drawn map. Luckily, the tribulations proved well worth it.
Powered by Unreal Engine 3, Parahelium is already looking mightily impressive in the visual stakes, despite being a year or so off completion. Once you dive into a level, your first task is to join either the highly-trained US anti-terrorist Delta team or the despicable Black November terrorist faction, intent on turning the Big Apple into a charred core with a fat-arsed bomb.
"There's a 20-megaton nuclear warhead somewhere in New York City that's been planted by a terrorist group called Black November, which has an ex-military background," explains Frank Trigub, director and game designer at Acony, whos presenting the game to me. "Opposed to them is Delta, a real world counter-terrorist unit.
Once you've pledged your allegiance, the clock starts ticking, and its up to you and your team-mates to cither find and defuse the bomb before it goes boom or to stop the counter-terrorists from getting anywhere near it.
We've broken New York down into 12 sectors," continues Trigub. "Across these sectors we want to show all the different faces of New York. There'll be skyscrapers, backyards, residential areas, parks, airports and subways.
"When we were looking at most of the multiplayer games out there, we realised that they're just a collection of unconnected maps. We thought, wouldn't it be cool if all the maps in the game connected together? In Parahelium, each level is just part of a bigger picture as were building a city out of these levels."
GO, GO, GO!
From a top-down 3D strategic map, you and your compadres will be able to see a tactical breakdown of New York, packed with honking cabs and towering skyscrapers. This tactical overview will contain up to 12 interconnected levels, one of which houses the aforementioned nuclear device. Whenever Delta team wins a level, they'll be given a hint as to the location of the bomb.
"In this mode, called Public Warfare, Delta team can vote for which level to play next," explains Trigub. So you might get the choice of going through the subway or through the backyards, depending on what your teams strengths are.
But surely that's not fair? I hear you cry. If the CTs get to vote for which map to play next they'll have a massive advantage, right? Well, that would have been the case had Acony not already been way ahead of us.
It S A Trap!
While Delta team members can vote for the next map, Black November players have the opportunity to second-guess their opponents by voting for maps in which to set up ambushes. If the map that Delta selects is the same as the level chosen for an ambush, the terrorists will be given several precious seconds headstart in which to get into position and prepare a nasty welcoming committee for their counterterrorist friends.
To make matters even more interesting, Parahelium will also feature a handful of zones with special abilities. Should you and your team successfully capture these areas, you'll find yourself with a massive strategic advantage.
"We have some areas that have special abilities," says Trigub. "One is a subway. If you go into a subway sector, you can move through the city much more quickly." Providing there are no signal failures, of course...
In The Zone
Other zones with special abilities will include a helicopter pad that allows you to call in chopper support. This strategic eye in the sky will enable you to identify the whereabouts of the enemy, allowing you to launch coordinated attacks on an unsuspecting foe. Mortar zones, meanwhile, will enable you to pound enemy strongholds before storming them on foot, while airports will give you the option of calling in air strikes.
"Capturing these zones can change the game drastically," continues Trigub. "Trying to get through an open area like a park will be very hard if the enemy has mortar support. In this situation you'll want to try and approach the enemy from a different zone." Parahelium will feature three distinct playing modes, which should allow you to enjoy the game in a format best suited to your playing style and schedule.
As well as Public Warfare mode, therell also be two other ways in which to play. Classic mode will bear more than a passing resemblance to Valve's online flagship, with two teams (terrorists and CTs) fighting on solitary maps.
On the other encl of the spectrum is Strategic Warfare mode, aimed primarily at clans with its unusual 5v5 gameplay. Each team will begin with five squads of five soldiers that can be moved around a tactical grid of New York. Whenever two squads meet on the strategic map, the action will zoom into the level where the two teams will battle it out for control of the zone.
Here's the twist. Each one of these five units begins with 100 health. However, should one team lose three of its men in one level, the unit's health will go down to 40. "The next time that squad is attacked, each player will start with 40 health," explains Trigub, clearly picking up on my concern that some players might be forced to sit out for long periods should they die in earlier rounds. "If they're all killed, the entire unit is wiped out and removed from the strategy map. A good strategy can help you win over a team with better individual players.
Pick Up And Play
After the presentation, it was time to get bloody. Jumping onto a server packed with hardened testers, I was surprised to find how quickly I became accustomed to the games intuitive interface and welcoming gameplay.
Each round began with a loadout phase. Rather than using Counter-Strikes familiar credit system, Parahelium places no restrictions on your choice of weapons and equipment. If something fits into your size-sensitive inventory, you can carry it - a feature that could well help prevent the uphill struggle faced by Counter-Strike teams who havent registered a victory for two or three rounds and are short on cash.
While the action felt very much like Counter-Strike - though with considerably less satisfying weapons -it was the strategic elements that proved of most interest. As my teammates and I moved our squads around the tactical grid of New York, a fascinating game of cat-and-mouse unfolded as we and the enemy charged towards the strategic locations in order to gain a valuable tactical foothold.
Thankfully, however, these strategic moments were kept brief by a stringent time limit that had us quickly back in the danger zone for some more shooting mayhem.
The Long March
While the first-person action is still some way short of stacking up to the likes of Counter-Strike, Parabelliim's well-paced, cleverly designed levels and frenetic yet strategic gameplay suggests plenty of promise. The unique tactical slant provided by connected levels and the ability to coordinate the movements of your forces over a battlefield is well worth getting excited about. However, modes such as Public Warfare and Strategic Warfare currently look like they'll appeal more to hardened clans than your average online weekend warrior. What's more, the lack of mission objectives could also prove to be a problem.
With 11 months of development still to go though, and with much early promise. Parahelium is one online tactical shooter that's well worth keeping your sniper scope trained on. Its familiar enough that online gamers should have no trouble accepting it, and should it fulfil its ample potential, then maybe, just maybe, Counter-Strike will have a team-based online shooter to feel genuinely threatened by. Maybe.
The way of the gun
When a gun isn't just a gun...
Parahelium's arsenal is already looking impressive, with 12 lovingly recreated real-world boomsticks on offer, along with seven modifications such as sniper scopes, laser sights and silencers. You'll even be able to equip knives, which can be pulled out of your enemies once they've stopped twitching. Delta team will be able to call upon a collection of highly accurate weapons, such as the recoil-friendly M4, while Black November players will have access to a more powerful, though slightly less accurate arsenal, including terrorist mainstay the AK-47.
Once you've selected your weapon, you'll be able to load it with three different ammo types, each with specific benefits and drawbacks. Armour piercing rounds, for example, can punch through up to 20-inches of concrete but will cause relatively low amounts of damage when they come into direct contact with flesh. Soft-point bullets and full metal jacket bullets have different properties. In some cases, you'll even be able to bounce bullets around comers.